The average visitor to Gettysburg will stand beside this gun without pause, thinking its a real, authentic Civil War field piece.
But on close examination this gun is not an authentic Civil War weapon. Instead this is a replica which dates to the early days of the Gettysburg park – one of perhaps a couple dozen cast for the Gettysburg commission in the 1890s. This particular gun represents the 1st Massachusetts Light Battery, along with an authentic 3-inch Ordnance Rifle, in Gettysburg’s National Cemetery.
The bore has crude rifling and very poorly masked machining marks. Some examples have irregular or off center muzzle faces.
And of course these lack any markings.
Likewise the trunnions have flaws which could not escape even the most lenient ordnance inspector.
But most notably, the breech profile differs from authentic 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. The elongated breech better resembles some Confederate guns or perhaps Blakely field guns.
The generously rounded knob joins the breech with just a hint of neck. Compare this to an authentic 3-inch Ordnance Rifle just steps away.
From a distance, the replica resembles the authentic gun well enough to fool most observers.
But on close examination, items such as the squared rimbases, lack of sight fixtures, and breech profile give away the reproduction.
Like the Parrott replicas I mentioned some time back, the 3-inch rifle replicas are products of Calvin Gilbert, a veteran of the war and a captain from the 87th Pennsylvania who operated a nearby foundry. When the Gettysburg commission came up short on 3-inch rifles to represent all the batteries on the field, they turned to Gilbert. In addition to the 3-inch and Parrott replicas, Gilbert also “falsified” 6-pdr smoothbores and James rifles into Napoleons. Now days we accept plenty of replicas and reproductions on the battlefield. Some better than others, but a necessary allowance due to the limited number of artifacts that remain. Gilbert’s guns were the first attempt at such a reproduction – over 100 years ago.
While not “authentic” pieces, these guns have a history and story to tell.